Freshman defender already impressing on field

Albrecht is the only freshman player in the starting lineup this season.

Gophers defender Nikki Albrecht passes the ball upfield at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium against Penn State on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016.

Carter Jones

Gophers defender Nikki Albrecht passes the ball upfield at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium against Penn State on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016.

Dominic Davis

Freshman defender Nikki Albrecht has already made an impact on the Gophers through the team’s first ten games.

Albrecht is the only starting freshman and is showing her ability and readiness for college level soccer.

“She came in fit,” said associate head coach Krystle Seidel. “She was able to get up and down the field at outside back which is really important to us. She’s an all-around really good defender; she has huge potential going forward.”

Albrecht was a star player on her high school team and was named the 2015 conference player of the year.

Playing on her club team also helped Albrecht prepare for college soccer. The Cedarburg, Wisconsin native played for the North Shore United Soccer Club and was a five-time club state champion.

Senior defender Rashida Beal said she noticed how ready Albrecht was for collegiate soccer early on and has praised her teammate’s progress.

“[Albrecht] was ready to come in right away,” Beal said. “She has some natural things going for her like athleticism, good speed, and [she’s] very strong on and off the ball.”

Albrecht said she wanted to make an impact right away going into preseason, but the most difficult part of her transition was finding a role.

“I didn’t understand what the coaches expected from me,” Albrecht said. “All I knew was I was going to give 100 percent every single time I stepped out on the field.”

The role she said she was recruited for was different than what Albrecht was used to. Finding good connections with teammates was important to build chemistry.

As a defender, Albrecht said finding a balance of knowing when to defend and when to attack has been key to learning the college game so far.

Veteran defenders have been quick to give Albrecht guidance on the field and off it.

“The biggest thing they tell me is ‘trust your training’,” she said. “As a freshman coming in my biggest issue was the lack of confidence that I had going into huge games. I needed them to push me but also support me so I knew I had that confidence going forward and to be the player I can be on the field.”

Albrecht has improved quickly over the course of the season so far. Seidel said her composure on the ball has gotten better and that the rookie is not afraid of making big plays.

She has two points so far this season — one goal and one assist. Her first career goal, which came against North Dakota on Aug. 26, was a memorable one for Albrecht.

“It was super exciting,” Albrecht said. “I didn’t realize it at first. I was in shock that it went in. It was a huge team effort to get down there.”

Albrecht largely credits her adjustment and success so far to mentors like Beal and fellow defender and junior Tori Burnett, who will continue to help her throughout the season.

“[Burnett and Beal said] ‘We know you can get to that standard, and we’re not going to let you fall below our standards,’” she said. “If I’m out on the field, I’m out on the field for a reason.”